For eons I’ve had a little linux desktop machine that’d degenerated into a headless server sitting around. I have these dreams of eventually doing more with it.
I wanted to move it. That was difficult networkingwise. But I got a Best Buy gift certificate for Christmas, and I decided to use it to buy a wireless PCI network card for the beast, so I could move it wherever I wanted (e.g. the living room).
I soon learned that getting the Linux pci wifi drivers for my card working on old-school Debian would be an exercise in pain. Ugly recompilations of this and that. Precise instructions on the web that don’t actually work and result in ugly C error messages during compilation.
I happened across this article at O’Reilly which described Ubuntu Linux “just working” with a wifi card. I decided to give it a try. It had been literally years since I’d installed Debian on that box; why not give a new distribution a try?
It didn’t go 100% smoothly but it did go remarkably smoothly. The wifi card did not work out of the box with native drivers, as I’d hoped, but it did work with the help of ndiswrapper, which turned out to be gloriously easy to use. (Strangely, also, it only works when I have my regular ethernet card in the box too. I tried taking it out and the wireless one stopped working. The regular ethernet card doesn’t have to be plugged into a network, or even configured in /etc/network/interfaces — it just needs to be physically present in the box. Whatever.)
I couldn’t get sound working right, but that might be because the box has two soundcards, both of which are crap (one built into the mobo and one installed), and it couldn’t decide which piece of crap to use. I don’t know. Linux sound hates me.
But everything else just worked, with no hassles. It was a whole new Linux experience. All that and it’s Debian under the hood, and if you want you can use the pleasant, easy to use packaging tool to install Debian software from the main Debian repository as well!
I would highly recommend Ubuntu Linux.